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Tuesday
May212013

Blogging My Bully

Bam. I was down. My face hit someone else's fist. And it was hard. I had never been hit in the face before. My head flung to the left after a cement wall collided with my cheek. That's what it feels like when you're hit in the face. I understand how a fist can end up in a cast after a punch.
It happened in the school hallway. Outside Shop Class. Which had nothing to do with shopping; I was quite upset about that.
I don't know why she didn't like me. The punch came out of nowhere. But her fist hitting my face had been brewing in her head for quite a while.
I was on the hard, cement floor. Where my right cheek now felt comfortable. Because it was cold. The bones throbbed around my eye. Kids gathered. She was gone. Suddenly I wasn't just the "new girl". I was the girl that got punched in the hallway.
I never understood bullies. It's funny how it's the buzz nowadays, to stop bullying. All I can think of, is where was this when my generation needed it. Who were raised to know that children can be mean. There's one in every class. Just walk away. Be everybody's friend. Kill them with kindness. If he's mean to you it means he likes you. These were our talking points.
Bullies are insecure. The meanest kid on the block thinks no one likes him. The girl in the hallway. With the fist. Didn't even know me. But something about me threatened her. I looked in the mirror. I wasn't very threatening. It was fifth grade. I lived at my grandparents' on a farm while my mother secured a job on the East Coast to support us after the divorce. I wore the same pair of jeans every other day. Perhaps she thought that was weird. I'd never kissed a boy. My bangs were teased. Just like me. And I never knew why. Because I never did anything on purpose to hurt anyone else but myself.
It was the punch heard round the world. In my world. Her friends were proud of her. For punching the new girl. Who used to live in Hawaii. Maybe that was enough reason. That I came from a place she didn't understand. That made me different. So I couldn't be good. So punch me.
I missed the smell of Plumerias that wafted through the glass louvers of my bedroom at night. Walking to school with my friends. Being with kids I knew could punch me, but didn't. Because they knew me.
Why do some people hate something they don't understand? To act like they aren't afraid of what they don't know, by destroying it. That's probably why there's so much war. It begins in school. when there is one in every class. Someone who is mean. And that's just how it is.
It's not ok. We know it's not ok. If we see our child mistreated, we talk to the teacher, the principal, the bully. Because we don't just see our child crying. We see ourselves. We see the hallway spinning and feel the cold cement floor on our cheek. And we want it to stop. So that memory can go away of when kids were mean because we were different and they didn't bother to see who we really were.
We live through our children, because every day of their life brings a reminder of our own. The girl in third grade who never said hello. The kid who sat next to us and whispered behind our back. The boy who said he wanted to go out just so he could break up.
Entering the lunch room brought terror to my heart. I'd go through the lunch line. Then stand in front of the cafeteria looking out at the tables filled with kids who looked like they belonged. Wondering how they got there. To that place of belonging. My eyes searched for an open spot or a friendly face. Who looked as different as I felt. I wanted to sit outside on a step. Alone. Where the cement was kind and the sun on my face was warm. Where God would say it's all ok. But we weren't allowed outside by ourselves. To be with God.
It must be why so many of us (the Awkwards) feel awkward at cocktail parties. Because when we enter that room, we are standing there in front of a cafeteria. With a tray in our hands. In front of people we don't know. And all we want to do is sit outside.
My friends might be shocked when they read this. I'm loud, social, and love to have parties. If I were this way in high school I would punch myself. But perhaps it's my coping mechanism. To get my tray back. To stand in front of the cafeteria and not be scared. To sit next with the kids who didn't know me and let them in. To bring down the barriers of fear and say f*ck it. I never swore as a kid so I just thought it would be cool to imagine myself saying that.
I don't know if the bully will ever go away. If our children's children will be having the same conversation we are having - that there's one in every class. But I do know that having been bullied made me want to raise my children to embrace the Awkwards. To live for the "different". To sit next to the child who eats alone. So yes, I live through my children. To finally do it right. To turn back the clock. So they can begin the process of healing. The healing of our generation of parents who didn't have advocates. Who's parents weren't heard, because they didn't know. Because we kept it to ourselves.
It's embarrassing to be bullied. If people didn't like you, there must have been a reason. But who could we ask to find out what that was? So we kept quiet. The question stirred in our souls until we're parents and we see our children going through the same thing and wonder how we can advance so much in technology, but human nature is stagnant. How can it be the same. How can our children be experiencing the same things we did. When all we want for our children is a place to lay their tray.
The signs in today's cafeterias are a start. Respect. Responsibility. Kindness. All words we should chisel into our children's hearts. One hug at a time. So we can lay to rest the topic of the bully. So the bullies don't grow up.
This holiday season, I want to thank the girl who punched me. I will never forget the feeling of that punch. The bruising of my face. The questioning of why. I don't remember her name. I won't track her down on Facebook. But what she did matters to me. Still. She left a memory that has never let me go and created a will to erase her with goodness. With teaching my children how not to be like her. I wonder sometimes if she remembers what she did. Or why she did it. To someone she didn't know. Because it made others proud.
But I do know one thing. My life is more interesting, more fulfilling, filled with more friendships than I could have ever dreamed of than when I carried that tray. And that is where I win. She created within me a drive to heal my wounds by loving so much, so large, that no friend near me would ever see a hallway spin.
I'm not always the perfect friend. There have been times I just couldn't make it right. When I've left a bruise on someone's heart. But I do know I tried. With all of my heart. To do it right.To be the person I hope my children to be. To live by the code of the tray. To look for those who hope to be seen and take a moment to see who they are because the view is beautiful. When you look around and imagine that everyone you see has stood in the front of a cafeteria wondering where to sit.

I don't know if we'll ever get it right. If bullies with be extinct someday. But I realize now it was the girl who punched me who unleashed the goodness I strive for in myself and my children.
I'd like to thank my bully. Through her I learned who I never wanted to be. Because it hurt too much. To be the one on the floor with the aching cheek.
I may trust too much. I may let people in too easily. Because even if it results in a punch, I know I'll survive. That there will always be a seat at a table where someone will make room for my tray. Where I can sit and look into their eyes and see we are not so different. Where I will not want to sit outside on the cement.
I'd like to thank my bully. You changed my life. For the better. Even if the hallway made me dizzy outside Shop Class. And the cement was cold against my cheek. For a moment. When everyone around you was proud. I hope you remember and wonder why. Because I did. And because of you, my tray is full. My heart is good. I will never long to belong to any table. And the most beautiful things in my life, are those that I see, as different.

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